For several Apex seniors, Friday night’s first round baseball matchup against Durham Jordan shows that good things can come to those who wait.
Keaton Oaks, Kyle May, Matt Tenuta, Austin Debevec and Jake Tart had waited two years to return to the playoffs. Their last postseason run happened in 2010 when they were sophomores, and it was a thrilling ride that ultimately reached the fourth round.
Possibly because Apex did not make the playoffs in 2011, the Cougars (13-10) took all of that pent-up excitement and intensity and turned it into an impressive 7-1 victory over the second seed from the PAC-Six conference.
Apex belted out 14 hits against previously unbeaten Falcon pitcher Chris Lynch (4-1). Tenuta, an N.C. State recruit, pitched a three-hitter to improve his record to 7-2 on the season.
“We decided to lay it on the line and leave everything out on the field,” said Oaks (3-for-4), who would like to play college baseball next year. “We finally relaxed and came together as a team.”
Apex will play at Leesville Road Tuesday.
The Falcons ended their season at 18-6. Jordan tied with East Chapel Hill for the conference title, but drew the second seed and a harsh fate at the hands of a psyched up Apex team.
“I’m proud of the way these kids played and especially proud of our defense,” said Apex head coach Mike Valder, whose Cougars finished 9-7 in the competitive Tri-Nine Conference. “The big thing tonight was that we got some timely hits and made Lynch pitch in a lot of tough situations.”
Tenuta did not allow a base hit after the third inning and no Falcon advanced to second base after the third frame. The left-hander finished with five strikeouts and forced nine groundouts, keeping second baseman Chris Denison and shortstop Alann Kragnes busy. Both infielders did a good job of chasing down the grounders and firing strikes to first baseman Debevec.
It was also Debevec’s two-RBI double down the right field line that broke open a close game in the top of the sixth inning, giving the Cougars a 4-1 lead. With the way Tenuta had settled in and found his rhythm, a three-run lead might as well have been ten.
“I told Austin (Debevec) he was going to get us one tonight,” Valder said. “He’s been a rock for us these past couple years, he’s a key part of our foundation and a guy we really lean on.”
Apex added three more in the seventh when Tart blasted a solo shot to right-centerfield and then Oaks, May, Debevec and Austin Campbell singled. Camby Abell scored for Oaks on Debevec’s second hit and Campbell drove in May for the final run.
Valder also credited Tart, who had the shortest and longest RBI of the night. Tart’s squeeze bunt scored the Cougars first run, as Alex Yarem crossed home plate after doubling to start the third inning.
Jordan tied the game 1-1 in the third when Markus Koeneke doubled in Wood Myers.
Still, that was the last hit the Falcons would get. Apex took the lead for good in the fourth when May drove in Oaks after he opened the inning with a double.
“Honestly, it just felt good to get the win,” Oaks said.
No-hitter for Gilbert: Green Hope pitcher Will Gilbert stayed undefeated by throwing a no-hitter on Thursday in a first-round game against Northern Durham. Gilbert, an N.C. State recruit, only needed to hold off the visiting Knights for five innings as the Falcons won 10-0 to end the game early.
Mustangs roll: Middle Creek wasn’t scheduled to have a second-round home game necessarily. But the Mustangs handled their business Friday night in a 9-2 win against visiting Sanderson, and got some good fortune when Wake Forest-Rolesville upset East Chapel Hill.
Middle Creek will host WF-R in the second-round.
Fuquay and Hawks to meet again: The second round will mark the sixth time rivals Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina have met in the last two seasons, including last year’s third round of the playoffs.
Fuquay will host Holly Springs, and the two sides split the regular season this year. Last year’s postseason meeting was won by Holly Springs as it marched on to the 4A title.
The Bengals won 8-1 at Riverside on Friday, while Holly Springs snapped a 14-game win streak by Cap-8 Conference champ Wakefield by winning 7-4.